During certain hours on the campus, there is a time just before twilight when the atmosphere is most still and everyone is immobile; where a roar of unnerving intensity makes seismic waves pulse through my spine.

I heard it as a freshman when I lived in Cumberland Hall, and I still hear it sometimes when I pull all-nighters at McKeldin Library studying or writing.

This sound is not of natural origin.

It is the sound of seedy dumpster trucks emptying refuse, mashing it together, and all the chaos associated with this violent process.

It is the sound that breaks the silence.

And it is the sound of a new day, though not in that rejuvenating, hopeful sense. It is simply unremarkable, where entropy resumes and, before you know it, we’ve walked past a thousand more people again.

Often, I feel like the University of Maryland is a big bottle of Italian dressing. Not that thick, processed stuff Kraft makes, but the homemade kind that ends up forming layers when you leave it in your cupboard for too long. Sure, we’re all cohabitating in the same space, packed tight like flour. We share an identity and rally under a mascot, but we are still hopelessly stratified and separated by a force as unrelenting as gravity.

I’m not talking about racism or prejudice or the things Greek life pulls again and again, although those separate us as well. I’m talking about subtler acts, like believing in our own versions of the truth, recoiling from uncomfortable discussions and just simply agreeing to disagree.

I see this in classroom discussions, in my conversations with strangers, everywhere, all the time.

I can’t believe how boring we’ve all become. How we’d all rather settle down than shake things up.

Maybe life’s too much of an earthquake already for us to engage in passionate discourse of right and wrong, to let our deepest thoughts course out like a bleeding artery, to get up — actually get up — and fight for something we believe in. Maybe we’re all just too tired trying to find our own piece of firm Earth to stand on. Maybe somewhere along the way we got it into our heads that it’s just easier to put our heads down, mind our own business, focus on our own work and keep the status quo than to dissent or say “I don’t agree” and believe that could be all it takes to get someone to listen.

I get it.

Sometimes all we want is to just chill out by ourselves because it’s peaceful, like a glacier drifting in the sea is peaceful. But sooner or later, we find that we can’t drift too long before a ship rams us head-on and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Because there’s really no such thing as minding our own business, there’s no such thing as keeping anything to ourselves, because nothing ever belongs to us for more than a lifetime.

In the end, we are all but drops in the ocean: immersed, bonded together by the laws of nature. We can never flow alone without engulfing or being engulfed by the things we touch.

But sometimes I don’t think any of this is true, that we’re not all so helplessly boring with nothing to say to one another beyond pleasantries . Sometimes I feel that somewhere in our heads we’ve created an entire universe to ourselves, where we are God and we’ve seen everything and feel that we understand everything and know everyone. And it is this powerful feeling that convinces us of why our heart beats inside us and why we have the urge to sing so loudly that everyone will know we are here, we are alive.

But somehow, in the hours before twilight, it just disappears, like refuse into the night, and we wake up and check back in with reality and convince ourselves that our worlds within are just not as important as the one in which we exist.

This is why I think it’s so important for us to be able to say and express the thoughts in our heads, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward, because if there really is any meaning or excitement or magic in life, it’s not hidden in faraway lands for us to drop everything to pursue. It’s not found on mountain tops or in the Milky Way. It’s in the language we speak, our stories we share. It’s in our history, it’s in you and me, right now, in this very moment.

In the end, a conversation becomes mundane when we think of it as just that, a conversation; but — and I think this is the reason why I write — I think we deserve so much more. I want to hear and understand your stories in your mind, and I want to know that you have heard and understood mine.

And in this single moment of connection where we are still nothing but water drops, frail and fleeting as foam, we at least know we are alive, we matter, and that together we can form an ocean with the power to make rivers and give life; and if we try hard enough, we can lift each other up to become the clouds.

Patrick An, opinion editor, is a senior physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at patandbk@gmail.com.